Elżbieta Bieńkowska is in Jakarta from Wednesday (11/10) to Friday on an economic diplomacy mission. (Photo courtesy of EU)

Digital Economy, the New Frontier for SMEs


OCTOBER 11, 2017

My visit to Jakarta on Oct. 11-13 takes place in the context of European economic diplomacy and is meant to enhance EU-Indonesia relations.

Indonesia is increasing its status as a global player and is a significant member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It has shown remarkable growth rates and a complementary economy to the EU, which makes it a natural partner for us. I therefore believe we have a strong basis for partnership between Europe and Indonesia.

During my visit, I will have the pleasure of meeting Industry Minister Airlangga Hartanto, having the opportunity to discuss the importance of economic reforms and the need for modern industrial policies.

Last month, the European Commission presented a renewed industrial policy strategy in support of a globally strong Europe addressing innovation, digitization and decarbonization. The objective of this industrial policy is modernizing European industry while being a fair partner for modernization in global supply chains. I know well that SMEs policy is at the heart of our respective economies.

For both of us they represent more than 99 percent of all enterprises. That is why we can learn from our experiences of providing support to the creation of a better business environment for them, that at the end will result in more jobs and higher growth. The importance of SMEs for the development of our economic relations is well reflected also in our bilateral negotiations for the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EU-Indonesia CEPA) that will include provisions to allow SMEs to fully benefit from the agreement.

As European Commissioner in charge of the European internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs policies, one of my major initiatives is oriented at the expansion of the digital economy. Among the actions developed by the European Union to continue improving and modernizing its single market (that accounts for 500 million consumers and 21 million small and medium-sized enterprises) is the digital single market for Europe strategy.

This comprehensive strategy aims to open up digital opportunities for people and businesses. It will make Europe a good digital partner in the globalized world, as it will create a fairer, transparent and more competitive economic environment, where all companies will be subject to the same data protection and consumer rules.

With 338 million cellular service subscribers at the end of 2015, some 98 percent of whom were on prepaid plans, Indonesia is the fourth largest mobile telecommunications market in the world. The market is expected to pose further growth in the future.

Indonesia is also home to one of Southeast Asia's most vibrant internet markets, with more than 88.1 million active internet users in January 2016, which represents an overall penetration rate of around 34 percent. Despite the continued growth, Indonesia faces a wide range of challenges in developing its ICT and digital economy.

Scattered over 17,000 islands – some 3,000 of which are inhabited – the nation's geography presents a variety of unique hurdles with regard to the installation and operation of communications infrastructure, something where EU companies are well placed to cooperate. There are many areas of mutual interest. It is in this context that I will exchange views with Communications Minister Rudiantara here in Jakarta.

Finally, I need to underline the importance for us of the Asean secretariat's presence in Jakarta. Connectivity-building regional integration is important for both of our regions. Europe continues to offer support to Asean's regional integration process politically, financially and by sharing our experience, which I will highlight in my meeting with the secretary general of Asean, Le Luong Minh.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska is the European commissioner for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs. She is in Jakarta from Wednesday (11/10) to Friday on an economic diplomacy mission.